The Street Child International Teacher Training Programme: One Educator's Story

Laura Craig Harvey Street Child's picture

Text by Joanna York:

I came across the advert for the International Teacher Training Programme one evening when I was job hunting online. Obviously, it wasn't a job, so I should have just shut the window and carried on with my search but there was something about it that intrigued me. I liked the idea of volunteering in a project that was about meeting people to share skills and ideas that could have a lasting impact, rather than turning up to build something or to look after kids for a couple of weeks and then never see them again. I was intrigued by the idea of travelling to Sierra Leone, too. To be honest, I had to Google where it was, but once I had I thought, why not? If nothing else, it was bound to be interesting to go there.

I had a phone call with one of the Street Child staff a few weeks later, and that's when my preparation for the trip started in earnest. Initially I was definitely most nervous about fundraising for Street Child before the trip. Being a semi-enthusiastic runner, I decided to do a half marathon to raise funds but I felt uncomfortable at the thought of asking people for money. In retrospect, I needn't have been. I guess my friends and family are far more generous than I gave them credit for! It was actually quite touching to see how generous some people were.

The Street Child International Teacher Training Programme: One Educator's Story
Joanna (centre) with the UK teachers

Most of the other volunteers attended an induction day together in London, but unfortunately I hadn't been able to go and meet everyone. So, suitcase bulging with mosquito repellant, I set off alone for the airport, and boarded the plane to Sierra Leone full of nerves about what I would encounter at the other end.

Being in Sierra Leone was quite an intense experience. I very quickly came to appreciate the four other volunteers that were there and all of the Street Child staff. Spending time in an environment that was so different to what I'm used to was challenging, hilarious, and always interesting, and I really appreciated having such a nice group of people to share it with. In the most challenging moments, which for me involved the biggest spider I've ever seen and two huge cockroaches in my bedroom, there was always someone there to help (a.k.a, kill the cockroaches) and to laugh about it with after.

My group took part in two training sessions in different parts of Sierra Leone. One of the benefits of this was that we got to travel around the country, drive through beautiful scenery, and meet loads of different people. The training itself was fascinating to be a part of. I really valued the opportunity to talk to the teachers there and to see how they handle challenges both familiar and strange. I left feeling like I had learned a lot from all of the teachers I met, and hoping that the ideas I had shared with them would be useful.

Joanna teaching fellow educators. From The Street Child International Teacher Training Programme: One Educator's Story
Joanna teaching fellow educators

My advice to anyone considering doing the ITTP would be to go for it. For me, it was an eye-opening experience. I grew more attached to Sierra Leone and its friendly people than I imagined. I learned more than I taught. I have fond memories of walking through the busy town centre of Makeni, noisy at all hours of the day, children shouting and waving whenever they saw us, overwhelmed on my first day and quite at home 14 days later. And, now, if I see a laughably small European cockroach or spider, I can deal with it myself.

Joanna is currently based in Paris, working as an Educational Content Creator. During her days as a teacher, she taught in the UK, France, and Austria.


About the Street Child International Teacher Training Programme in West Africa

The programme gives teachers a unique opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone or Liberia, and spend two weeks mentoring local teachers and improving the quality of education for thousands of children.

The trip is a fantastic way to continue professional development by exchanging experiences and learning about teaching in different settings. Participants stay in local communities and visit rural schools where Street Child is working with some of the most vulnerable children. Travelling with like-minded teachers, the group will together discover real West Africa and encounter challenges and rewards of teaching, both new and familiar.

Speaking about his experience Dave Smalley comments: "Sierra Leone is truly an amazing place. I cannot speak highly enough of all those who shared the experience with me, the camaraderie and determination to make a difference was palpable amongst us... the local teachers were so welcoming and grateful for our presence, it really was such a heart-warming experience."

Street Child works to give vulnerable children in West Africa and Nepal the chance to go to school. The focus is on building schools, training teachers, and empowering families so they can afford the cost of their children's education. Since 2010, Street Child has created access to education for over 17,000 children in rural communities across Sierra Leone and trained over 400 teachers. In 2016, Street Child conducted research across Sierra Leone and Liberia to understand the barriers to girls' education and now focuses on ensuring thousands of girls are given the chance to go to school.

Educators: this is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to challenge yourself, discover new places, and gain a fresh perspective!

To apply or for more information, please visit: